10.2 Part B Interview Questions Study Guide

10.2 Part B
Interview Questions Study Guide

    Below are some of the most frequently asked job interview questions designed to get at the information an interviewer needs to decide whether or not you are a good candidate for the available position.  

    Prompts to help guide you in your interview preparation are included for each question. 

    The questions might be asked in a different way but the information you need to convey is tucked into these questions.  Create outlines and/or write out complete answers to these frequently asked questions and then practice your answers with a friend or your dog before you share them with an employer you hope will hire you.

Questions about your qualifications, the position, and the organization:
  1. Tell me about yourself?

    This is not an opportunity to tell them about everything since your childhood.

    This is a brief summary of who you are and why you are interested in the position and why you are a good match for the job you are interviewing for - your education or training, your experience, extra curricular activities are some areas to data mine.

    Dissect the job description, highlighting key words and job responsibilities so you are focusing and remembering why you are qualified. Then create bullet points to help you focus during your interview.

  2. What do you know about our company? What is your understanding of the position?

    Read and reread the job announcement and company web page until you know as much as you possibly can about the job, the division, and the organization before your interview.

    Study like you are preparing for a final exam because you are.

    Find an employee in the specific area that you are interviewing for prior to your interview to learn more about the company and the job. You will be much better in your interview if you have insight from an insider. Tell the person you contact that you are interviewing for a job and you would like to gain insight on what it takes to be successful in the position.  Ask them what they like about their job. Ask them what advice they might share in how to prepare for the interview. 

  3. What makes you qualified for this position?

    Make a list of your past work, education and extracurricular activities and accomplishments.

    Focus on specific job related knowledge, skills, and experience from these different elements of your life – paid or unpaid – and be prepared to share the relevant information. It helps if you have studied the job description and understand the job and the job requirements.

    Your job is to demonstrate your potential to be a success in the position that you are applying for.

  4. How have your education and/or experience prepared you for this position?

    Share a summary of how your education and experience (paid and unpaid) relate directly to the position.

    If you do not have work experience - share examples of academic projects or leadership roles where you gained related experience. This might be from parent participation, sports, clubs or student professional organizations.

  5. What are your greatest strengths?

    Before interviewing you will need to understand what your strengths (knowledge, experience, skills) are and how they relate to the jobs you are applying for.

    Focus on the job description and share relevant information about yourself - your strengths and where you gained them.

    If your strength is leadership - talk about leadership roles and what that entailed - scheduling meetings, setting agendas, delegating responsibilities, mentoring new members, sharing ideas, finding funding... are a few examples... keep the list going for yourself!

  6. What is your greatest weakness?

    Everyone has weaknesses. Usually there is an elephant in the room that is an obvious weakness.

    Choose a weakness that will not exclude you from the job. An engineer or accountant who shares that they hate math is not a good candidate for an engineering or accounting job. 

    One of the best examples of a weakness was shared by a young woman with an accent who was interviewing for a marketing job. She knew it was obvious as she was interviewing. She told the interviewer that she had an accent and had learned to ask people if they understood her and confirm that they had correct information before moving. Then she shared that it made people remember her because she was different.

  7. Please share a recent accomplishment that you are proud of and explain why?

    Focus on the job you are applying for.  From what you glean from the job description what in your background is relevant.

    Share something you built, planned, organized, created, or completed. The example can come from any area of your life - education, work, sports, community involvement, professional associations, etc.

    Keep this answer work-related and match the example you share with the job you are interviewing for.

  8. Tell us about a failure you experienced and what you learned as a result.

    Facebook is famous for having signs in work areas that say “fail hard” because we often learn more from our failures than we do from our successes. It shows that you take risks in order to learn new things.

    Share what you learned from a failure, how you recovered, how the experience will be useful for you in the future. Obviously you do not want to share something that will eliminate you from being considered for the job…

  9. What qualifications should a successful candidate possess?

    Save pdf copies of every job description and documents for every job you apply for!  This is critical.  Once the deadline has passed or enough applications are received the link to the information will be removed so you will not be able to study for the interview. 

    If you are applying for a government job this is an especially critical question. READ EVERY DOCUMENT THOROUGHLY: Classification specifications, the specific job announcement, and the duty statement. Click on every link.  Study and memorize the job description. Understand the job requirements and know what qualifies you for the position. Then share how you meet the qualifications focusing on your knowledge, your experience, and your skills.

  10. Tell us about your work experience.

    When sharing examples of past jobs – use jobs that relate to the job for which you are applying.

    If you have no related experience use projects, officer roles from clubs, or team leadership roles from sports.

    Be very careful describing jobs you liked the least, especially if they are the most related to the job you are interviewing for. Go positive.  Talk about the experience by saying it was a challenge and that you learned a lot. 

    Focus on learning experiences and tasks from your previous employment.

    NEVER EVER criticize your co-workers, co-team members, supervisor or former employers. This is like spitting out of the window while in a moving car – it comes back on you.

  11. Describe your communication skills.

    Every employer wants to hire people who can communicate effectively. Your job is to show both in how you deliver your answer and in the content that you are a good communicator.

    You are expected to have good to excellent verbal, written, and presentation skills. Listening skills are also important.

    Think about an example – a document, presentation, situation beforehand that demonstrates your communication skills. Share your best, most relevant example.

  12. What have you done to save money or increase profits for your company or organization?

    Make a list of situations where you were able to make things more efficient or where you improved processes.

    Think of examples where you worked as part of a team to help work or business run more smoothly. Prepare a summary that you can share.

    Practice your answer with a friend, your dog, or in front of a mirror to improve your delivery.

  13. Describe your team experience. Give us an example of a project you worked on with a team.

    Make a list of work projects, academic projects, professional conferences, sports events, etc. where you were part of a team that completed a project or delivered a service or an event.

    Think about your accomplishments and the team’s accomplishments – things you feel good about things that were successful. How many people were on the team? What was your contribution?

    Share the elements that show team and leadership skills: project management – collaboration, communications, goal setting, planning, delegation of tasks, documentation, presentations.

    Share info on how the team delegated tasks and responsibilities; what your role was; and what the outcome was. Be specific.

  14. Can you give examples of when you have been creative?

    Creativity is sometimes hard to define. It can be putting paint to canvas or words to a story. It can also be analyzing information or problems and finding creative solutions.

    Think about situations you have encountered that required you to think outside the box to come up with an unusual solution to a problem. Make a list and select the one you feel most comfortable describing. Then write it out to help organize your thoughts.  Say it out-loud and hear your answer.  Then revise it to create the perfect answer!

  15. Describe any leadership experiences you have had.

    No one stays static in their career if they are a professional.  You will not be a newbie forever. Most jobs require you to be both a productive team member and to lead teams on some projects, eventually moving into management.

    Many organizations want to know that you have the capacity to grow into management or another leadership role.

    What situations have you been in that required you to take on a leadership role. Make a list and choose one example of your leadership skills. Describe what happened in that situation. How did you lead? Did you motivate others to cooperate and deliver? Did you resolve any conflicts? Was the project completed on time and/or under budget?

  16. If you had multiple projects due at the same time what would you do to ensure that deadlines are met?

    People often have too much work to do. It is very common to have multiple projects running simultaneously that all have short deadlines. This question is about time management, planning, organizing, and prioritizing. It is also about understanding when to ask your boss what their priorities are when you know you will not be able to meet deadlines on all of your assigned projects.

    Think of an example of how you have managed similar situations in previous jobs or in class projects. Write down your thoughts and organize a coherent answer.

  17. What do you know about our company? Why are you interested in our company? What do you know about the position?

    The worst thing you can do in an interview is fail to answer the question that is asked. The most important thing with this and all other questions is to focus carefully on the question(s) being asked.

    Research pays off. You should have memorized the job description and job requirements. You also should have thoroughly researched all of the written sources of the organization/company.

    Good sources are obvious - the organization's website; Google; current employees who you have spoken with to gather information about company mission, company culture, products, training programs, and future goals.

  18. What are your long-term goals (i.e. what do you want to accomplish in the next 5-7 years)?
    What are your short-term goals (i.e. what do you want to accomplish in the next 3-5 years)?

    Before you interview for any job, spend time writing out our goals both long term and short term goals. This helps you focus on what is important to you. There are exercises in The Serious Job Seeker - Chapter 6 - in particular 6.5- Setting your Goals and Priorities, that will help you create your lists.

  19. How would you describe the ideal boss?

    Make a list: Think about what makes you feel empowered - a supportive boss who makes sure you have the right training, mentoring, hardware, and software so you can perform your job effectively; someone who recognizes your talents and accomplishments and who you can go to with questions - especially when you begin and until you have a strong understanding of what you are doing. You also want someone who will ensure that issues are taken care of before they become big problems.

  20. What tools do you believe you will need to be successful in your career?

    The answer to this question depends on the job you will be doing. Make a list. What do you need? A supportive boss; a cooperative team to work with; excellent computer equipment, high speed internet access, tech support... you will definitely need mentors or a boss you can go to with questions; training programs; continuing education. You will likely need time to learn the company ways of doing things.  Perhaps you will need a masters degree.  Good employers will pay for your continuing education. 

  21. What courses did you enjoy the most during your education? Why? What courses did you like the least? Why?

    Happy Talk here!!! Don’t say anything bad about your education unless you plan to get a whole new education/degree. You can select classes that you like the most but do not trash any classes or professors that you did not like. It will only tarnish your credentials and knowledge base.

    For classes or professors you did not like, just say, “It was a challenge and I learned a lot.”

    Why? Because you don’t know if the professor you dislike was one of the interviewer’s favorite professors or favorite classes… or one that is essential for success in the job you are applying for.

  22. You will be asked very tough technical questions that relate to your major and the specific employer you are interviewing with.

    It is important to figure out what technical questions will be asked in your interview. It is not that hard. First, study the company/agency website thoroughly. Look at the department information. Second, research the job description. Take it apart line by line looking for key words and key concepts. Third, look at other job descriptions on the company website. You can glean a ton of information from those sources. Figure it out!

    Go back to your college textbooks or buy a copy of the GRE study guide.

    For new grads this means understanding that – yes, you are responsible for information you learned in classes you took, even if it was 2 years ago, if it is relevant to the job.

    For experienced candidates – if your knowledge is stale or technology has changed since you last interviewed, you need to brush up on the latest technology in the industry. More than one candidate I have worked with has lost out on an offer because they struggled to answer questions on stuff they knew but have not used in a long time. Most software companies let you test drive their software – so just do it!

  23. What courses gave you the most difficulty? Why?

    This is a fishing expedition. The employer wants the best possible fit for the job. They are trying to eliminate anyone who would not be happy doing the job they are hiring for.

    There are certain knowledge areas, skills, and interests that are essential for every job. Your job is to select carefully the jobs you apply for and to screen yourself out of ones you would not be happy in.

    If you hated your accounting courses and you are applying for an accounting job then this is a big problem for the employer and for you.  If you hated thermodynamics and the job requires in depth knowledge of it then you are not a good fit. Own it!

  24. Describe your senior/masters project.

    You should have created a portfolio before your interview, with the project details - proposal, flowchart, documentation, final report, pictures, etc.  The Serious Job Seeker has a full description of what to include in your portfolio in Chapter 9.2.  It covers recent grad and experienced candidate information.

    Be prepared to share your portfolio with the interviewers - hard copy or digitally. Your project is in your comfort zone. You know all about it so it should be an easy answer. Practice what you want to say with other team members or with a friend who can critique your answer.

    Create an outline of the elements of your project. Then give a succinct description giving relevant details of the project. Think about your project in relation to the job you will be doing if you are hired. Dissect the job description and requirements to see what you want to emphasize in your answer.

  25. What was the most challenging aspect of your senior/masters project? For experienced candidates think about your most challenging recent project.

    Be careful in answering this question. Share information about the technical challenges. If it was a team project do not trash the other team members or say you did all of the work. The employer will not want to take a risk that you are the problem. And if you do all the work what would they be paying your co-workers for? That is how they will view it...

  26. What conflicts arose during the course of the project? How did you resolve the conflicts?

    This is a really important question. Taking the ball and going home didn’t work on the playground and it won’t work in your jobs.

    How you resolve conflict and how you get along with the other employees is basic to the productivity of any organization you work for. Employers want to know you can work as part of a productive team that delivers.

    Think very carefully about how you answer this question. Saying there was no conflict is probably naive. There are always conflicts. Being able to talk things through to find consensus is really important both in your work and in your relationships. Think about it.  Ponder this answer carefully. Brainstorm on possible answers.  Ask your team members... sometimes we take for granted that which we do well or effortlessly.  Come up with an answer with examples that show your abilities in this area.

  27. How would the members of your team describe you?

    Even in the tightest market employers are looking for certain qualities that make for good employees.

    Think about your personality traits - punctual, thoughtful, thorough, patient, easy to work with, able to deliver on time...

    Think about your team skills - good at resolving conflict; work well with other team members; work well with customers; possess good communication skills; have strong leadership skills…

    Think about your technical skills - Have a strong understanding of _________. Fill in the blank with an answer that says your knowledge matches the job requirements…

  28. Do you prefer to work in teams or alone?

    The answer is easy - BOTH!  Think of examples of both ways of working. You will be expected to work as both an individual contributor and as a solid team member in just about any work environment you can imagine. Craft your answer with this in mind.

  29. Describe any leadership roles you have had during the past 4 years.

    Employers need to consider people they hire for future leadership roles. What is your potential? In most jobs you will spend three to five years delivering and then move into managing people. Think outside of the traditional leadership situations. Have you held an office in a professional association, on a sports team, in a parents club or on a project. You do not have to have been paid- it could have been as a volunteer or on a school project.

  30. Describe your related work experience. What did you learn? Why was it important?

    This is your opportunity to list the work experience you bring to the table. Look at your resume. Memorize it! Make an outline giving bullet points of your experience that is related to the job you are applying for before your interview. Share that related project you worked on.

    Your resume should be designed to emphasize and summarize your experience, background and accomplishments. It is your study guide for the interview. It is what you cut and pasted from into the application you filed online. Review resume samples in The Serious Job Seeker for examples of what a good resume looks like. It should have a solid qualifications section that includes how many years of experience you have on key areas of responsibility that coincide with the requirements of the job you are applying for. It should have detailed descriptions of what your jobs included.

    Ignore the people who say that a one page resume is all you are allowed... sometimes a two page resume is way better. I have done resumes that are longer if the person has significant experience and the position level warrants it. Content and formatting are critical when creating a longer resume. 

  31. What is communication and why is it important to your success in a company?

    This is an important concept. Think about situations where good communications were absent. If people fail to communicate effectively what is the result? If you have experienced jobs where you were uncertain of what you were supposed to do - what was the result? Write down your thoughts and then construct why you believe communication is so essential to your success.

  32. Why did you leave your last job?

    Finding opportunities with growth potential; finding a job that challenges you more; being ready for a change; finding work that more closely fits your knowledge, interests, and skills; finding a more stable job; would all be good answers.

    NEVER EVER trash your last company, boss, or coworkers. Indicated you are ready for a change and a new challenge.

    If you were terminated, try to find a job that is temporary to make it your last job rather than the job you were terminated from.  In general, it is better to resign than to have a firing on your record.

  33. Do you have anything to add?

    This question is often the last question in an interview. This is your opportunity to summarize the key points of what you bring to the table. Make an outline of your strengths, your experience, your education before your interview. Tick through the list in your mind. Did you cover everything?  If not, this is your opportunity to share that great accomplishment or project you excelled on and then make sure you give a summation of your qualifications and thank the committee for considering you. Your resume should be designed to emphasize and summarize your background and accomplishments. Review resume samples in The Serious Job Seeker for ideas on what a good resume looks like.  

  34. Do you have any questions?

    ASKING QUESTION SEPARATES THE SERIOUS JOB SEEKER FROM THE LAZY JOB SEEKER! This is where you have an opportunity to shine. ASKING QUESTIONS DEMONSTRATES ENTHUSIASM. If you have done your homework you should have some great questions from your research of the company, the department that is hiring, and most importantly - the job description.

    Below are the questions you might ask your interviewers. You do not want to ask every question on the list! Just the ones that work for the specific job you are applying for.

    Questions to ask the interviewer:

    1. How will you judge the success of the person you hire?
    2. What kinds of projects might I be working on?
    3. What do you like best about working for this company/organization?
    4. What is the typical training involved for new employees?
    5. Would I be working for more than one supervisor?
    6. What growth opportunities are there for this position?
    7. . What would be a typical time frame for advancement?
    8. What are some of the challenges facing your company/organization and how will this position be involved?
    9. In researching “name the company”, I read that you're facing a challenge in “name that challenge”. How do you plan to meet this challenge?
    10. How would you describe a typical day?
    11. I am really interested in this position - what is the next step?
    12. Do you need anything else from me as you make your decision?
    13. When can I expect to hear from you?

© Cici Mattiuzzi